I really got into the whole New Year’s resolution “thing” soon after college, when my high school friend, Susan, stayed with me over New Year’s. We had one of those delicious, early twenties’ visits (time at cafés talking, time walking and talking, time hanging out drinking herbal tea in large mugs and talking, um, a lot of talking). We discussed the big-ticket stuff, as I dimly recall: work, family, love, and what to do with our lives. Somewhere in there, the concrete task of New Year’s resolutions came up. About certain things, Susan wasn’t a big committer and writing resolutions was one of them, but we’d talked them out and so I mailed her a postcard with hers (you read that right). Over many years, although not in recent ones, we mailed them back and forth (yes, she wrote her own plenty of times).

Now, I love mail (that actual physical entity formerly known as mail, these days called snail mail) and despite the fact that between the busy writer/parent life the incredible array of other modalities for communication, such as email and Facebook (and if I could truly figure it out, Twitter), I don’t send nearly as much actual physical mail as I once did (you could measure the decrease by pounds), I still love it (even if electronic communication is greener) and still send it (in fact, there’s a stack of thank you notes, jotted on postcards, awaiting stamps by my computer).

In the annals of handwritten communiqués, I really did love those New Year’s resolution-filled postcards dearly. On the postcards, in my handwriting (and Susan’s in hers), there was something so containable and so optimistic about the items listed, the small hopes and goals, and even the larger more dreamy ones. My most recent years’ resolutions have moved onto my computer (along with almost everything else, it would seem; I even finally have—and have been starting to use—a digital camera, as of last week, an early New Year’s action). My general New Year’s resolution mix still produces a list that’s both mundane (floss teeth every day took years to master) and lofty (believe in the possibility of peace). The computer version, while easy and findable (word doc: miscellaneous file) is less romantic.

This year, I’ve yet to complete a list (I am, you can see, mulling, and I don’t set a firm January first deadline, haven’t for a long time, although on my unwritten list of things to do over the winter school break time, come up with resolutions is an actual priority). When I sent the postcards, at least after a while, I also wrote the resolutions in my journal (again, an actual physical journal, not the one I keep now, on the computer, abandoned almost entirely for the time consuming practice of keeping this blog, as well as the flash-nonfiction journal-like writing of Facebook status updates). The computer lets me keeps year-to-year lists more easily (holiday gift lists, kids’ birthday party invitation texts). I do have a notebook journal, too, though, on a shelf and sometimes I still use it. Somehow, I don’t think it’s the question of where to write the list that has slowed me down in making this year’s resolutions. I think it’s an uncertainty about what I need them to be at this very moment.

There have been periods when focusing upon the quotidian satisfied my sense of New Year’s purpose. I really wanted to floss my teeth, exercise or drink more water. Those weren’t the only things I wanted to do. However, wrapping my intention around those things—ones that I believed would enhance my quality of life or my health (or both)—was a compelling pursuit. These days, when I think about the preoccupations of my twenties—about adult life in general—really, I’m struck by how many seemingly insignificant tasks there are to master, from balancing a checkbook to doing laundry to sending thank you notes (if you do that kind of thing). And we have it so easy. I’ve been reading the first Laura Ingalls Wilder books to Remy (we’re through Little House in the Big Woods and onto Little House on the Prairie). Remy listens raptly to the details of roasting a pig or making maple syrup or building a log cabin. This time through (probably my one 104th times for each, barely exaggerating), I am awed by how much knowledge and effort went into survival, how much work was required for things that we can obtain (purchase) already complete, from heat to butter to clothing.

Other years, I’ve crafted lists that are less focused upon concrete tasks or physical habits and more focused upon the spirit in whatever way. Again and again, with different words, I’ve determined to believe: in myself, in the world, in others. It sounds kind of bland when I write it down like this.

And yet, those iterations on trusting myself are personally the very hardest ones to make (and so far, on some level, even into my forties, seemingly impossible to keep); I have such fantastic beating up on myself skills, so well honed (so boring) and to overcome or shed them isn’t as easy as I think it should be. So, despite not a little frustration, an embarrassing amount of resignation, a ton of motivation, and plenty of experience, I know that those are essential resolutions to keep making.

Meantime, I’m really trying to figure out whether I want to push my work life in a more straightforward direction or whether I am content to continue as I’ve been going for a while, by cobbling together a pretty eclectic array of projects.

The part of me (not so small) that has worked as a political and community organizer, the pacifist, the women’s rights champion, the strong social conscience holder, the gender equality-leaning parent has to reaffirm trust that the world can become better for all (people and planet) at least annually. It seems too easy to be cynical and in that way, opt out. I do not want to opt out; I want to push the half-full glass I hope to hold all the way until it is overflowing.

As I sit with all my questions and concerns and hopes and dreams, what I begin to see is that although quiet is an extremely precious commodity (with four kids, no surprise there), I really crave a little more dreaming time. Garnering more quiet reflection on my New Year’s resolution list would go the way of most people who join a gym at this time of year, or, as Saskia often says, “That sounds good.” Although my chances are nil, I am going to put the quiet dreaming time on my list, because it’ll serve as a reminder that it’s okay to want that. In fact, I see that this year’s list needs to be about affirming gentleness with myself, and about seeking a sense of softness or balm when I am worrying about the world. So, I’ll write up some variation of trust myself and trust my dreams for how the world can be. In terms of concrete habits, it’s about making small changes—with work (which changes to be determined), finding just a little more time to be chatty big sister to my just-turned-mom little sister and seeing that moon-faced nephew I love so much, seizing more chances for one-on-one time with the sixth grader who always wants more than any parent can give, reaffirming the value of my rolling on the floor to stretch and breathe before sleep routine and protecting the little bits of solo time I get with dear hubby (and with darling toddler, too)—not gargantuan shifts, just tweaks.

If the Jewish New Year comes at a time of sweetness—the harvest’s bounty in full glory, the colors giving way, that sense of change so undeniable—the Gregorian calendar turns in the throes of harshness in New England, frozen and sparkling and stiff. Finding suppleness in its midst is a challenge, but change requires a little bend, it requires the possibility of spring. Simply knowing that the days are incrementally leading us there has to be enough, that and rediscovering the belief in growth within ourselves. That, perhaps, is why I find this ritual of New Year’s resolution making so satisfying and so important when the snow spits down upon me and the grey skies press the cold air down tight. I have to dig beneath, where root vegetables gain sweetness, and I have to watch the light stretch out, and I have to burrow into the place in me that is awed by the process of the seasons. From there, I can dream. From there, I do dream, and hope, and move forth.